The Citadel arena, Freshmen Spring Carnival 2091

"Well? Are you going to just stand there, you stupid idiot?"

Did I know the ages of the deceased children? What the hell…?
Completely caught off guard by the remark, Summer relived that day all over again and her feelings of remorse and guilt began anew.

"Answer me, Princess! You embarrassed me and all Pandora of West Genetics with that stunt. I wished that every moment of your pitiful life was a repeating nightmare of your utter stupidity. You really are the Failed Princess, and your actions caused the death of innocent children."

Summer couldn't process her emotions. Rattled from Larisa's taunts, she felt helpless. The fighting spirit within her subsided. As if done on purpose, the two Pandora were concealed within the tunnel - off camera, so that any spectators were oblivious to the conversation. The infrared cameras picked up their heat signatures, but nothing else. This privacy was all Larisa needed to break down her opponent. With the taunting and disrespect destroying Summer's resolve, Larisa declared that her enemy would soon get her wish of going back home.

The Citadel's VIP observation booth

"What is she waiting for?"

The two women stared at the infrared monitor displaying red, orange and yellow outlines of GM889 and GM870. "I don't understand, headmistress. Why isn't el Bridget-Aoi engaging?"

"I don't know Nana." Amelia responded. "From what I'm seeing, the two of them are having…a conversation?"

Their stateroom, overlooking the Carnival arena, was located on the uppermost floor of the Citadel. Every so often, the flash of tiltjet search lights illuminated the room. Both women kept their eyes on the infrared display as the confrontation continued. Suddenly, a man's voice could be heard from across the room. "Amelia, what's your opinion on the situation below?" Amelia turned and looked up to see an elaborately decorated military officer standing in the doorway.

"Ah, General Kun. I'm privileged that you came to observe the Freshmen Spring Carnival. Won't you please join us?"

The man smiled, but declined. "No, I just wanted to ask your thoughts on this year's 1st and 2nd ranked freshmen."

"Oh, you mean Larisa Tamm and Summer el Bridget-Aoi?"

"Yes, especially el Bridget-Aoi. I understand that she has achieved high marks this semester, despite the blemishes on her military record."

"Yes, she has done especially well despite the setbacks."

"Good, glad to hear it. The top officials have been monitoring her progress closely. We have high expectations for exemplary performance in the next two years of training. Do you believe she has what it takes?"

"Most certainly. Come, just spend a few moments with us as this battle progresses."

"Do you even know what it means to be a Pandora? You've brought shame to your mother's honor and reputation! You don't belong here, and I'm going to kill you in the most violent way possible!"

In a blur, Larisa materialized Simargl and attacked. Strike after relentless strike wore down Summer's defenses. Larisa's weapon was imposing. Every time it clashed with Virga, it caused severe vibrations in Summer's right arm.

"Your puny Volt weapon is worthless against mine." Larisa screamed as she used combinations of cut and block techniques to inflict bruises and wide lacerations over Summer's arms, chest and legs. Her once perfect uniform had turned to a shredded mess exposing Summer's skin. Larisa continued taunting and humiliating her.

Despite its impressive size and weight, Larisa handled here weapon with ease. It was difficult for Summer to counter and defend herself. As she twisted away from another one of Larisa's forward thrusts, the weapon smashed into her elbow, dislocating it. In an instant, Virga vanished from her grasp.

Summer dodged the next flurry of attacks and fell backwards out of the tunnel; into the full view of the Carnival camera recorders. The anxiously awaiting spectators realized this new battle unfolding and re-focused their attention on them.

Larisa stood at the mouth of the tunnel watching Summer attempt to crawl her way backwards. The aircraft's search lights illuminated her face momentarily as she smiled at her injured prey. "You make this too easy! Look at yourself! Groveling in the mud, you're pathetic!"

Marching down from the tunnel, Larisa picked up Summer by the throat and slammed her against a concrete wall. Gripping her neck as tightly as possible, she came within inches of Summer's face: "This is the end for you, Princess!"

The cold, unlit void looked familiar. Summer once again faced the sparkling image of Satellizer.

With tears running down her face, Summer reached for her mother. "Please…help me."

The ghostly image stepped backward shaking its head as if it were ashamed. Summer cried out in desperation as the image faded into oblivion: "Mother, please! Don't leave me!" She was alone in the darkness. The coldness of the expanse made her skin feel prickly. The peaceful space surrounding her stretched endlessly in all directions.

She suddenly experienced a sensation of weightlessness. Is this death? Is my time as a Pandora over? Summer felt somewhat relieved. She imagined herself walking along the shore back home in Eastbourne. Visiting the Wishtower, shopping at the marketplace and taking a walk in the afternoon sun - living a normal life.

Then, Summer noticed something peculiar. From the darkness, an outline re-appeared. This figure was covered head to toe in glistening silver armor. The armor reflected rays of blinding light as the person continued to walk closer. Summer guessed the individual to be equipped with some futuristic version of the Pandora Mode protective shielding. Stopping just inches away, the figure bowed its head acknowledging her presence. Slowly, the helmet dematerialized revealing a middle-aged reflection of herself. The shapely armor fitted every curve of Summer's body.

"Who…are you?"

"Seriously?" The reflection joked. "I'm you …can't you tell?" The armored figured turned around, tossing her long, flowing brown hair.

"This isn't happening, I blacked out. I have to be dreaming, aren't I already dead?"

"Get a grip will you?" The woman instructed. "Get your ass back into that fight and crush your opponent!"

"What do you mean? I was defeated! I'm no match for Larisa Tamm. It's over…" As she touched her neck and looked down at herself, she was saddened to see her injuries and torn clothing were present within the dream.

"Really? You are a Pandora! Start acting like one! Look at this amazing battle suit! You won't earn this armor if you don't get back in there and fight! Don't ever give up! Embrace your power. Embrace who you are."

"What does that mean? How can I embrace this power?" Summer pleaded.

"How? It's simple." The older woman took her gloved hand and touched her left breast. "Tap into your raw emotion - buried deep within your heart. The power you possess is there, and it's quite formidable. You just have to learn how to control it. It acts like a booster for your power."

"I don't understand, I'm afraid."

"Don't be. It's who we are. It's your destiny. Mum had similar abilities, but she needed a lot more Stigmata to Transcend."

"A booster?"

"Yes, when you tap into your emotion, it triggers and it boosts your Stigmata flow rate. We are the only ones who have it…"

Summer was intrigued, "When I have felt those sensations, I've witness octagons on my body. Isn't the lattice structure of Stigmata shaped like hexagons?"

The armor-clad woman smiled. "I told you. We are the only ones who have it – we're unique and special. Be aware, however; the foundation for all Stigmata is based on our enemy's physiology. Stay cautious of its intoxicating power."

Touching her neck, Summer started feeling a slight sensation of Larisa squeezing the life out of her.

"I can feel her hand around my neck…"

"Of course you can. You're being choked to death as we speak."

"No. I can't die, I won't…ugh." With a labored breath, she whispered. "I can't give up, I will not be defeated."

"Good! Start acting like the powerful Pandora that you are! Tap into that raw emotion!"

Summer stared at the woman wearing the bright shimmering armor; noticing her glowing octagonal shaped eyes.

"You're right. I am a Pandora, and this is my destiny! I have to keep fighting! I won't give up, I promise! Thank you."

Her reflection inside the armor smiled and nodded. Within seconds, the adult version of herself disappeared into the darkness.

In a bright flash of light, Summer regained consciousness, gasping for air. She gripped at Larisa's hand and tore it free from her neck. Dropping to one knee, Summer delivered a roundhouse punch to Larissa's stomach and shoved her away. Surprised by Summer's renewed power, Larisa smirked that the fun wasn't over yet. Re-materializing her Koto sword, Summer attacked with deadly precision and began to overwhelm her adversary with accurate strikes. Summer successfully sliced deep lacerations into Larisa's chest and legs.

How is this possible? Larissa thought to herself. She was severely injured! At that moment, Larissa's anger began to increase as Summer gained the upper hand.

"What's the matter Larisa? Are you surprised? Are you forgetting that I'm a Pandora, just like my mother! I will not give up on her! I'm going to finish this fight!"

The two combatants continued their furious battle. The clang of their weapons rang through the air. Every onlooker in the area was transfixed on this single battle – the battle of the top ranked freshmen. As far as the spectators were concerned, there was no one else fighting in the arena but those two unstoppable forces.

With an effort that seemed almost super-human, Summer lowered her sword and shoulder tossed Larisa over a pile of rubble. Surprisingly, Larissa tumbled backwards several meters before gracefully rolling up and rushing back at Summer.

Summer continued her furious attack; implementing her Koto strikes and close quarters martial arts techniques. Summer slammed her right leg into Larisa's abdomen and followed through with an upper cut of her thick Volt Weapon. Larisa missed on a downward strike and embedded her Volt Weapon into the wet ground.

Rolling around and spinning over the stuck weapon, Summer drove Virga into Larisa's lower back. Reeling in the pain, Larisa shoved Summer backward and retrieved her weapon from the mud. She scrambled over a pile of rocks, climbed atop a small platform and jumped to a nearby ledge, with Summer hastily pursuing her over the same obstacle.

Running along the ledge, Larisa leapt to another platform. Turning around, she saw Summer running along the ledge about to the make the same traverse. Analyzing her position, Larisa realized that her back was literally against the wall – she had nowhere to go. Summer had successfully made the jump and landed at the end of the platform. Larisa could see the glowing blue octagons emanating from Summer's pupils. Gripping Simargl tightly, she re-engaged.

Summer deflected Larisa's initial attack and delivered a left punch to her head. Shifting her feet, Summer grappled Larisa and forcibly drove her down to the platform. Flipping up and rolling sideways, Summer thrust her Koto forward, catching Larisa in the leg again. The blade ripped a new gash down the length of her thigh. Clutching her leg Larissa lost her balance, and in the mad scramble, scooped up a short piece of broken re-bar. Gripping it tightly, she rolled forward and swung the rod at Summer's face, grazing her eye.

Larisa somersaulted off the platform while Summer clutched at her face, feeling the warm blood flowing from the injury.

The initial impact of falling 6 meters onto rocks and other jagged debris blurred her vision. It took several seconds for Larisa to regain her bearings. As she rolled over to get back up, she heard Summer landing on the ground nearby. Larisa frantically used her Volt Weapon as a crutch to stand back up. To her surprise, Summer had already covered the distance and delivered another roundhouse kick to her face, shouting, "I will not give up...Larisa, never!"

With one final swing of her sword, Summer knocked Simargl out of Larisa's hand.

The Yari made a loud clanging sound as it landed on the rocky terrain. Larisa looked up into Summer's glowing blue eyes and saw the octagonal shapes a second time.

"What are you?"

Summer spun around and delivered another kick to Larisa's face knocking the tall girl backward.

"Ugh…It's going to take a lot more than kicks to keep me down Princess!"

Reacting to her challenge, Summer rushed her opponent. Clenching her fist, she struck Larisa in the face with all her strength, knocking her against a broken concrete wall. The impact of Larisa's body striking the wall sent stone fragments flying in all directions. Her knees buckled as she slumped to the ground.

Her face was contorted and bruised; blood dripping from her nose and mouth. Larisa could barely look at her adversary. Dumbfounded, she just shook her head. What just happened? I defeated el Bridget-Aoi! Where did all this energy come from?

Executing one last maneuver, Summer spun her sword around and plunged it through Larisa's chest puncturing her lung. Larisa screamed aloud in pain, coughed and sank back to the ground. Summer wouldn't let go of the Koto, and continued to drive it into Larissa's body as she collapsed.

"…I didn't think you…cough…had it in you Princess." The intensity of Summer's pulsating blue eyes concerned Larisa.

As Summer was about to deliver one last, crushing blow, Larisa quickly held her hand up. "Ugh…Wait!" Larisa coughed again, "Did you know that Sister Amelia…knew that you were going back to the mainland to investigate FloodTide?"

Summer's glowing eyes began to fade, as she lowered her weapon to a defensive stance. "What did you just say?"

"…You heard me, you…little shit. Somehow, she knew you were going after that terrorist group."

"You're lying! You don't know anything."

"Ugh…she contacted me the morning you and Lohman boarded the train…said something about meeting her at the transit entrance." Larisa stretched her fingers out, and then made a tightly gripped fist – stealing a glance at Simargl which lay just inches away.

"When I arrived, I saw you two get on the train. Amelia was nowhere to be found…seemed suspicious to me why she would ask me to meet her there. Now I know why. She…wanted a witness to you leaving the island illegally."

It all started making sense to Summer; if Amelia really knew what their plan was, why didn't she try to stop them? Stepping back away from Larisa, Summer recalled that they never asked for permission to leave the island the second time. Why would Amelia do this? What was her motive? As the headmistress of West Genetics, she swore an oath…As she contemplated what she just heard she lost her focus.

Larisa quickly reached for Simargl.

The sensation of tearing flesh sent shock waves of pain through Summer's body. Looking down, she saw Larisa's Yari had punctured deep into her stomach. Summer couldn't believe her eyes. All the fear and doubt came rushing back - her resolve and confidence stripped away.

"You stupid failure." Larisa replied as she slowly stood up. Gently taking Virga from Summer's shaking hand; she tossed the weapon several meters away. The sound of the weapon hitting the ground echoed off the concrete.

"You fool, you had your chance to defeat me!" With that statement, Larisa violently pulled her weapon free of Summer's abdomen. Pieces of muscle, tissue and entrails fell to the muddy ground.

The pain was so intense, her insides felt like they were on fire. Summer began violently coughing up blood as her convulsions increased. She slowly collapsed to her knees.

"I admit that your form and power was extremely impressive. That little trick you did with your eyes…you almost resembled a Pandora."

Larisa knocked Summer to the ground with a heavy punch. Pulling her hair and forcing Summer up off the ground, Larisa continued to taunt and deny that her foe was a Pandora.

"You will always grovel in the shadow of your mother!" Larisa shoved her face down to the ground. "You don't belong here Princess!"

Desperately looking around in the hopes of finding someone who could help, it occurred to Summer that this was not a simulation. There were no alliances, and nobody was coming to rescue her. Her Volt Texture was failing and it wasn't compensating for her eyesight.

Recognize your destiny…Embrace your power…

"No…I will not give up…I am a Pandora…just like my mothe…" Summer gasped and coughed as her punctured lung continued to fill with fluid. Larisa stood silent as Summer attempted to stand up.

"Ugh, I…will not…give up!" Summer struggled to stand, her Volt texture abilities were gone, and there was just no energy left. With another mighty swing, Larisa slammed Summer to the ground. And, just as before, Summer strained to stand.

A battle-weary Adriana appeared from the top of a mound of rubble. Holding her Eiku Bo Staff, she watched the savage scene unfold. Summer's one remaining eye caught a blurry glimpse of her teammate, while a solitary tear rolled down her cheek. Is that you Adriana?

"Why won't you stay down bitch?"

Larisa swung her Yari around in the air and cleaved Summer's right leg just below the knee. Summer dropped back to the ground with a thud. The blood oozed from the separated muscle and tissue. Larisa stepped over Summer's broken body swinging her imposing weapon around in the air.

Adriana desperately tried to scale down the mound of rocks and debris to get to her best friend.

Rolling her defeated enemy onto her back with a hard kick, Larisa forced her weapon down into Summer's exposed chest. Pulling Summer's bloody face close to her own, Larisa taunted her one last time.

"Right now, your friend is coming to rescue you, but it's too late. When I'm finished with you, I will kill her next. It's completely over for you and your pitiful group of friends."

Adriana had closed the distance in no time; she could see Summer laying there underneath Larisa; the gigantic weapon sticking out of her body. Focusing all her attention on getting to her roommate, Adriana failed to see the flashes of two blades catching her at the waist. She fell to the ground several meters from her best friend. Brittany Temple was on top of her in seconds, stabbing her several times in the neck and chest.

"When you wake up at the medical regeneration center, I hope you remember what was done to you today Princess. You are an embarrassment to Pandora everywhere. You aren't worthy of your mother's name, and you never will be."

Having said enough, Larisa pulled Simargl from Summer's motionless body and with a final swing, slashed a deep gash across her neck.

Pandora 1st Years Top Ten Final Results Spring Carnival 2090

Rank1 GM889 Larisa Tamm
Rank2 GM879 Brittany Temple
Rank3 GM910 Adriana Lohman
Rank4 GM870 Summer el Bridget-Aoi
Rank5 GM1001 Davina Dahwan
Rank6 GM901 Pina Marigold
Rank7 GM992 Kallie Osuka
Rank8 GM952 Nii Akuro
Rank9 GM1009 Natalie Coletti
Rank10 GM882 Corraine Milford

"Hey, are you okay?"
"No," replied Summer.
"C'mon, it's not that bad…"
"Leave me alone Adriana."

Poking the tightly wound bandages around Summer's neck, chest and stomach, Adriana giggled.

"It's a good look for you. A new fashion trend?"
"Please stop it, don't touch me…"
"What's this? The Untouchable Princess…?"
"Not funny…"

Adriana stood up from the park bench and looked down at her roommate. The blue sky above them was absent of any clouds. The midday sun shined brightly. Summer didn't notice; she still buried her face in her hands.

"Don't be so hard on yourself." Adriana said. "Seriously, you can't still be depressed, on the day we all leave for Summer Break! You should be happy to go home."

"Seriously…leave me alone."

"No way roomie, you're stuck with me!" Adriana smiled and looked up at the sky. "It's a beautiful day, let's enjoy it. I don't want to miss the opportunity to say goodbye to Kallie and Pina before they leave, so c'mon, let's go!"

"No, I'm too embarrassed. Go without me…"

"Ugh, stop being such a poor loser! A real leader doesn't give up that easily. So Larisa Tamm beat the living shit out you. Who cares? It was just the Spring Carnival; you are ranked in the Top 5! You are still considered elite."

"Am I? I seem like a big failure. I shouldn't even be here. I'm worthless." Summer kept her bandaged face in her hands.

"Are you jealous that I'm ranked above you? Is that it?" Adriana tried to joke.

"Of course not! It's not what I mean."

"Then what do you mean?" Adriana sat back down on the bench and disturbed Summer's bandages again. "You had Larisa beaten down! What the hell happened?"

"Larisa knew about us secretly leaving to go investigate FloodTide. I guess Amelia told her. It caught me off guard and I let my defenses down."

"What? Are you kidding? Nobody knew we were going to do that." Adriana was puzzled with this serious new development.

"In addition, I am starting to think that the headmistress was behind the Stigmata allocation assignment. I believe the NOVA simulation was tampered with as well."

"This is getting weird." Adriana replied. "I have never heard of this sort of thing happening at West Genetics. Even Marcy hasn't experienced anything out of the ordinary." She looked around to see if there was anybody nearby listening to their conversation.

"There's more…" Summer whispered as she lifted her face from her hands. "I had a dream when I was fighting Larisa."

Adriana shot Summer a serious look. "A dream? During the battle?"

"Yeah, well, more like an out-of-body experience."

"I briefly saw my mother, and then in her place was a reflection of myself from the future. I was wearing some sort of Pandora Mode-type armor. It was pretty impressive actually."

"That sounds…awesome! What color was it?"

"You're missing the point! The future me said that I needed to embrace my power, but I don't understand fully what she meant by that statement. It's so confusing."

Adriana poked at her ribs one last time. "So, Larisa psyched you out, and you lost the fight."

"Yes…" Summer shoved her face back down into her hands, still embarrassed at what transpired several days ago.

"Listen Summer, you are an amazing fighter and you have a big heart. You're my team leader and best friend. We are just finishing our Freshmen year here at West Genetics. We still have a few more years to go. You will have another chance against Larisa Tamm. Trust me, I promise you that for sure! Come with me to say goodbye to our friends."

Summer looked up at her friend. She managed a smile and nodded. Adriana helped her up as they walked through the courtyard to see their squad mates.

"Are you anxious about going home?" Pina asked, while Kallie finished packing her things into her black duffle.

"Yes, actually. I am looking forward to spending time with my father. He contacted me and said that I had some important mail that I urgently needed to read. I can only guess what it could be."

Neatly placing the last item into the duffle, Kallie turned to Pina.

"What of your semester break? I expect you will reunite with your family?"

Pina turned away and shifted her weight.

"I am not really looking forward to it."

"Why not? Please explain, I assumed that you were close with your parents."

"It…isn't that, I just…like living here on West Genetics Island. I don't want to go back to Paris. Where we live is dirty and dreary. It…depresses me."

"Understandable, you came from an impoverished lifestyle. It's typical to feel resentment upon returning to that way of life."

"Yeah…I guess so…"

"Pina, it is only eight weeks and three days. Enjoy your time with your parents and we will be together again soon. Please accompany me to the courtyard. I would like to say something to Summer and Adriana before I leave."

"What are your plans for the break?" Corraine asked.

"Me? Not much really. I'm going to return to my home and speak again with my mother. I will convince her that being a Pandora was what I was meant to do. I want to brag about my Rank 1 status."

Larisa turned her attention away from Corraine and focused on four girls who were meeting at the center of the courtyard.

"Over there." Larisa pointed. "The Princess's team of failures."

"The Carnival is over. What's your problem with them anyway?" Corraine inquired.

"What's my problem? I'll tell you my problem - it's that Summer el Bridget-Aoi. Born into status and prestige. She didn't have to work hard her entire life. Her mother was Satellizer, the great Untouchable Queen – considered to be one of the most powerful Pandora of her day. She lives richly and in comfort in Great Britain. She doesn't know what it's like to be a true Pandora. She had everything given to her. She never had to struggle to reach the top. She sickens me with her approach to fighting and her poor leadership skills. She's too soft; I don't see the deadly instinct her mother possessed on the battlefield."

"Larisa, if you haven't noticed, her entire team is ranked in the top ten."

"It's bullshit! I'm going to make it my mission to disparage that Princess so that she continues to feel inadequate. Hopefully she will realize that she doesn't fit in here, and that she is a disgrace to her mother's name. If I can get into her head, I can continue to break her down mentally and make her second-guess herself."

"Overly obsessing about Summer could cloud your judgment…ever think about that?"

"Never! Watch this!" Larisa walked swiftly over to where Summer, Adriana, Pina and Kallie were talking.

"Hey! Princess! I'm surprised the surgeons let you out of the infirmary so soon."

Summer frowned and turned her head to see Larisa and Corraine approaching.

"Shit, this isn't a good time." Adriana whispered.

"I'll take Corraine, if you and Kallie attack Larisa." Pina mused.

"Stop it, all of you. She is only targeting me, don't get involved."

"Irrelevant." Kallie interrupted. "We are a team, and we will defend our leader."

The three girls stepped in front of Summer and materialized their Volt Weapons. Stunned, Larisa stopped in her tracks and stared at them.

"You weaklings think you can protect the Failed Princess? I will kill every single one of you! How amusing that your families would each receive your body bags during the vacation break."

Summer felt the anger swelling inside her.

"No!" Summer exclaimed as she stepped around her teammates. Her bandages flexing as she raised her hand to materialize her Koto. "You will not harm them!"

With her eyes glowing a faint hint of blue, she walked up to Larisa until they were within centimeters of each other. Larisa's wide smile was a stinging reminder of the humiliation Summer had endured during the Spring Carnival.

"You don't get it. I am going to make it my life to remind you that you'll never measure up to being a Pandora. Not today and not ever."

"You can try, but you will fail. I am a Pandora, just like my mother. My team and I will continue to improve and advance during the next school year."

Larisa spat on the ground. "That's bullshit! Remember this, I will be watching you. Your days here at West Genetics are numbered, el Bridget-Aoi!"

Turning, Larisa briskly walked away dragging Corraine behind her. Adriana turned to see Kim Okada standing behind Pina.

"Team, I see we are still trying to make new friends?"

"Hardly…" Pina said sadly. "Why does she hate us so much?"

"She's scared Pina, scared of your team leader."

"Me?" Summer replied as she adjusted her glasses.

"Yes, Larisa knows as well as I do that you will not stay Rank 4 forever. It's only a matter of time."

"I agree." Kallie said. "I've noticed improvements with you as well. Larisa Tamm even called you by your name just now. Not by the Princess moniker."

"I don't know what you all see in me, but I don't think I'm going to make it as a Pandora. I just can't seem to figure everything out. I'm…just a failure."

"That's Larisa psyching you out again." Adriana reassured her. "Get that tall stupid bitch out of your head!"

"I'm glad I arrived just in time to avoid a bloody confrontation. Girls, please don't forget to deactivate your Volt Weapons. It's not appropriate to have them activated outside of the training rooms." Embarrassed, the three squad mates de-materialized their weapons.

"Well, have a safe vacation and I hope for the opportunity to work with you again next year."

"Hope to work with us again?" Summer inquired, "I don't understand."

"Hmm, well…let's just say that after all of you leave to go home, I have to…take care of some unfinished business with a…fellow faculty member. You see, I could be posted outside of the island, or reassigned to the incoming Freshmen, or some other unpleasant position. I am confident however that I should be able to stay here at West Genetics as your sophomore instructor."

The girls were elated to hear that Kim could advance with their graduating class.

"Now, if you'll excuse me, I am off to say my goodbyes to the other freshmen in your graduating class. Good luck to all of you." The team of four watched their instructor mingled and disappeared among the other clusters of girls in their commencement class.

"Okay, well, this is goodbye for now." Pina said.

"Yes, see you in August," Kallie remarked.

"Ugh, you two are so ridiculous!" Adriana joked as she embraced both of them.

Summer looked up into the bright blue sky. Remarking on how similar the sky looked ten months ago when she said goodbye to her mother at Basics School.

Now, she was scared and embarrassed to face her parents with the results of the Carnival. Despite encouragement from her teammates, she still was uncertain of her future. Still, deep in her heart, she felt a slight sensation of restrained energy. The mysteries surrounding her treatment at West Genetics still haunted her. She never got the answers she was looking for, but she vowed that upon her return in the fall, she would pursue the truth.

Looking at each of her friends with whom she had become very close, she wondered if she really had what it takes to live up to everyone's expectations. Is it really her destiny to be a Pandora, a guardian for all mankind? To be trained as a warrior to fight an enemy who has vanished from the Earth?

She watched her teammates depart; each of them boldly going their separate ways home. Turning away herself, Summer felt some apprehension as she walked back towards the center of the courtyard. Returning to the park bench, she decided to take in the warm sun one last time. Checking her chrono, she still had two hours before she had to be at the transit station.

Sighing to herself as she leaned back, she thought of the peace and quiet the flight home would bring. The el Bridget learjet was a luxurious Gulfstream 1100. It always excited her to fly on her grandfather's private plane – avoiding the bustle of the airport crowds was always an appreciated bonus.

The vibrating handset within her clutch brought her out of her brief daydream. Swiping the screen, she read the message.

-|Kazuya Aoi.1136|- BEGIN MESSAGE ..|
Summer, the company jet is unavailable to take you home. Attached is a voucher with an activation code to purchase a one way ticket through the local commercial airline. Mother and I will be at Gatwick to pick you up. Looking forward to seeing you. Have a safe flight. -Dad
-|Kazuya Aoi.1136|- END OF MESSAGE ..|

"Great! That's just great. Now I have to fly home commercially. What else could possibly go wrong now?" Getting up from the bench, she immediately headed back to her dorm. Having now the unfortunate predicament of fighting the busy airport terminals, she thought it best to catch an earlier train to the mainland.

The trip across the continent had taken six full days. As the train came to a halt, the two men disembarked and walked a kilometer to the rendezvous point. The limo was waiting just as she had described, and as they approached the vehicle, three large men got out and greeted them.

"Good afternoon. We are Miss Maier's personal escorts. Please come with us." Mavis and Sledge quietly got into the car and sat across from one another. The car swayed and bounded as the driver sped through the busy streets of Minsk.

Arriving at what appeared to be a manufacturing facility, Sledge and Mavis were led into a conference room on the second floor. As both men stepped inside, they saw a long, black walnut table, and sitting at the head was a woman with short blond hair.

"Welcome to Belarus. I'm Marta. Marta Maier-Tamm. It is very nice to meet you. I trust your long journey was uneventful?"

Sledge stood motionless as Mavis spoke. "The trip was painfully long. I hope it was worth our time."

"It will be, Mr. Brennan. It will be. Now, please, come, make yourselves comfortable. May I offer some refreshment? We have much to discuss."

Here ends Book 1 of Freezing: Accede Destiny. Thanks for reading! Your opinion matters to me, so it would be greatly appreciated if you would take a moment and leave a review.

Below are some teaser questions...

When Summer reunites with her mother, what will happen?
What kind of vacation will Adriana and her sister Marcy experience?
What is the mysterious letter Kallie's father was referring to?
What kind of welcome home will Pina face?
What business does Mavis and Sledge have with Marta Maier, and
will Larisa uncover the truth behind her mother's dealings?
Will Kim continue as the team's instructor for their sophomore year?
Finally, where are the NOVA?

The story continues in...

Book 2 - Birthright